Summer is drawing near and Tippie first-year MBAs are preparing for the valuable internship experience. Russ Mills shares his internship search strategy and how he secured a summer position with Gavilon Group.
My approach to the internship search was to use as many resources as I could to determine what industries and companies were a good fit for me. As a career changer it was important that I identified what strengths I brought to the table and had a plan of how I could explain to a potential employer that my finance background paired with my MBA in marketing was an asset to their organization.
First I met with career services to discuss what I was looking for in an internship and employer. They have the most familiarity with companies that traditionally recruit MBAs and have contacts across a wide range of companies. I was looking for something challenging, a role where I would be able to have an impact early and get involved in as much of the business as possible.
I started to review internship postings and did independent research on those opportunities that I was interested in. I also attended company presentations and connected with the company representatives, allowing me the chance to ask follow-up questions and gain more insight, as well as to add them as a contact I could reach out to in the future.
Alumni were also helpful. I stayed in contact with an alumnus that spoke during our orientation, getting his thoughts on industries with great opportunities and the best way to approach different companies. I also stayed in contact with Tippie graduates I met at Advance and asked for insight on their internship and full-time searches, contacts they had at different companies, and ways I could make myself a better candidate for the internship I wanted.
Gavilon has a significant on-campus presence, so when I saw the company’s internship posting, it seemed like a good fit and I immediately applied. I asked career services for the contact information of the company representative coming to campus, and I reached out to introduce myself and express my interest in Gavilon and the internship. By contacting the recruiter in advance, I was able to set up an interview on campus when she visited.
I also reached out to alumni and second-year students who worked at Gavilon and asked them questions about the company, their personal experiences with the company, and how I could best prepare for the interview. At Gavilon’s on-campus presentation, I gained a better understanding of the company, their goals for the future, and the type of person they were looking for – all of the information reinforced my interest. By the time my on-campus interview came I had already established a relationship with the company, spoken with several employees about their jobs and the company, researched the industry, and was able to ask more specific and detailed questions.
After the on-campus interview, I attended a regional MBA career fair in Chicago. Gavilon was one of several companies participating, so I made a point to stop by their booth, talk with the HR representative I had interviewed with, and maintain that relationship. Although the Gavilon internship was at the top of my list, I continued to pursue other opportunities to give myself as many options as possible. Speaking with other companies gave me the confidence needed to approach a new person at a new booth and allowed me to practice presenting myself and explaining my background and skills.
Fortunately, Gavilon invited me to their headquarters to interview with other managers from the company. I approached that second interview in the same manner as the first by utilizing the contacts I had made, doing more research, and staying current on what was going on with the company and the industry. Shortly after that second interview they extended an offer.
Throughout my internship search I kept the perspective that I was okay with being turned down because of wrong fit or lack of experience, but I was not going to miss an opportunity because I was outworked by another candidate in the search process.
For those about to embark on an MBA internship, be aggressive and be confident. There are lots of opportunities out there, but you have to go after them, so if there is a specific industry or company of interest to you, start working with career services or classmates to target contacts. Use Linkedin to connect with the company’s HR team, even if the company has not yet posted an internship.
You will never get an offer from a company you don’t pursue, so go after what you want and don’t be intimidated by a name or by other people that may be applying for the same job. When you do get an interview you have to be prepared. That means being able to clearly explain everything on your resume, show your knowledge of the company, and best tell your story.